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434 LEITERS IN CANADA 1997 England, whose intensity in many ways parallels that of the better-known period between 1570 and 1620. Here, in the poetry of Langland, Gower, Chaucer, and others, in the religious and controversial prose of the Lollards and other reformers, and in several attempts to define the role of vernacular writing or else to censor it, much of the ideological foundation on which later English prose and poetic traditions were built was laid out. KerbyFulton 's and Middleton's essays are especially helpful in their wideranging appreciations of this process. Kerby-Fulton analyses Langland as an author in relatjon not only to late medieval views of literary authorship and a~tctoritas and to the slender evidence we have for the literary culture of fourteenth-century London but also to early attempts at formal and informal censorship of vernacular writing in the IJ8os and IJ90S. Middleton , in a tour de force whose central argument demands we revise the date of Langland's final version of his poem, and indeed the date of his death, does to Langland what is so often done to Chaucer, by attributing to his poem a prescient responsiveness to the elements in late medieval culture which now seem most characteristic of modernity. By requiring Langland's apologia to talk back to the Statute of Labourers- something it may or may not do in historical fact, so it seen1s to me -she has Piers Plowman respond to what she portrays as an almost visionary attempt at modem absolutist legislation, and redefines Langland's self-conception as a poet around this response. I have no idea what proportion of the specific arguments in this book will be with us in twenty years, for this is a fast-changing and speculative scholarly field at present, and all but one of the six essays (Pearsall's) make controversial claims that will need further research. Despite all the careful codocological, historicat and theoretical thinking that has gone into the volume, there is, perhaps, a danger in the collection as a whole that too much is being urged on us by the sheer conviction of the experts. But this is a small price to pay for so fizzy a brew of exciting ideas, intellectually engaged thinking, and scholarly love for one of the English language's least understood and most underrated poets. (NICHOLAS WATSON) Douglas H. Parker, editor. The praier and complaynte ofthe ploweman unto Christe University of Toronto Press. ix, 222. $6o.oo This edition of a little-known early Protestant reform tract has several strong claims on our attention. It is an ideological and historical hybrid, transposing the voice of late medieval heterodoxy to the sixteenth century, where stem moral indignation and complaint no longer seem alien and aberrant and the passionately held views of the proto-Lollard outsiderhave become an entrenched part of the establishment that is under attack The prose discourse comprises two parts: a short sixteenth-century preface HUMANITIES 435 directed to 'the christen reader/ and a lengthy monologue addressed by a ploughman to Christ- a quietly effective rhetorical device that makes the reader/hearer a participant in an undertakmg to expose reprehensible aspects of the behaviour of the clergy- 'as if God himself were ignorant of them/ says the editor. The preface asserts that the ensuing monologue was written 'not lange after the yere of oure Lorde a thousande and thre hundred in his [the ploughman's] owne olde english.' A short alphabetical table at the end of the preface glosses some vocabulary that was evidently regarded as archaic, but the date 1300 is, of course, a historical impossibility and an indication of a very in\precise sense of time past. Although no pre-sixteenth-century source has survived, the language, tone, and content of this tract, first printed in Antwerp in 1531, are reminiscent of the fervent eloquence that riled the enemies of Lollardy in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The voice·, described by Parker as 'stridently anti-papat' charges the clergy with corruption and hypocrisy and incorporates many familiar perennials of Lollard protest: auricular confession , image worship, pilgrimages, transubstantiation, and the church's view that 'no man [other than...


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